There was a time, as recently as five years ago, when Johnny Depp was the biggest movie star on the planet. Any Pirates movie was a guaranteed billion-dollar hit no matter how bad the reviews. Alice in Wonderland even hit the billion mark. Depp could carry even a quirky, R-rated musical like Sweeney Todd to impressive numbers. He was the perfect star. A respected actor (three-time Oscar nominee with other roles that aged very well, like Donnie Brasco and Edward Scissorhands). He was a sex symbol (’03 AND ’09 “Sexiest Man Alive”, according to People magazine). He was easy to like given his eccentricity on-camera and apparent normalcy off it. Everyone loved Johnny Depp and the proof of that was in the box office receipts of everything with his name attached to it.
So what happened?
While it’s tough to tell why Depp lost steam, it’s pretty clear when it began. That would be right after the last Pirates movie (2011’s billion-dollar On Stranger Tides). His next big film was The Lone Ranger, one of the biggest flops of all-time. Then came the money-losing sci-fi disaster Transcendence, and then Mortdecai. All-of-a-sudden Depp’s last three star vehicles were all bombs with audiences and critics alike. He was taking on weird roles, but not the good kind of weird that garnered him superstar status to begin with. Any momentum gained last year with the relatively successful Black Mass has quickly been washed away by the stink of Alice Through the Looking Glass, a summer sequel that may not even open at $40M domestically. Depp has another Pirates film on the way, but given the time passed since the last one (six years, just like with Alice), there are reasons to think that the film will fail to hit the highs of the once-great franchise.
If you need a star to headline your movie in hopes of competing with the superhero tentpoles, the Star Wars’, the animated hits; well, that guy is not Johnny Depp. Not anymore. Long gone are the days of Public Enemies where you could put Depp’s face on the poster of an adult movie guarantee solid footing.
If it sounds like I’m piling on, let me add to it by saying Depp is also (allegedly) a piece of shit. Amber Heard has left him and she even has a restraining order now, citing extremely violent abuse, saying he assaulted her for years and even bringing out some bruise photos to prove it. Maybe rumors of Depp’s drug-fueled violent rages are being fabricated, but there are clearly personal issues that may or may not tie into his struggles on-screen. It’s important to separate the performer from the man. But when Depp’s downward career spiral happens to coincide with some very serious personal issues, it’s fair to at least wonder.
I wish the best to Johnny. I hope he figures out whatever’s wrong with him personally. I hope he gets his acting mojo back, because, in his heyday, he was captivating in every role he took. But the logical part of me sees Depp’s time as an A-lister to be at it’s end.